TipBITS: Stop Getting Finder Windows in Tabs

Originally published at: https://tidbits.com/2020/04/24/tipbits-stop-getting-finder-windows-in-tabs/

Frustrated by having drives and folders in the Finder open in tabs instead of new windows, Adam Engst discovered that there are two preferences that control this behavior, and one is in a surprising spot.

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I much prefer tabs to windows. I don’t like having many open windows. I try to stick to having one window per app as much as I can so that everything will be in one place.

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A bit off-topic. I like having one Finder window with four tabs, each showing a specific folder. (For any new folder or drive, I do want a new window, but I hadn’t had a problem, because I hadn’t set that Dock preference.)

The trouble I had was that Restart would break the Finder window with four tabs into two windows, one with three tabs and one with one tab. After too much fumbling around, I noticed that the breaking into two windows occurred if the original window was minimized at Restart. If the original window was displayed at Restart, then it reappeared with four tabs intact.

I hope this helps someone.

I’m a huge fan of TotalFinder, which has great tabbing features but sometimes has issues with Finder opening tabs underneath the TF tabs so they look like Safari tabs.


I prefer tabs too. On occasions when I want a folder shown in a separate window, I just drag its tab-handle into the screen background: voilà, it’s a new Finder window.

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I was wondering why Finder kept using tabs instead of new windows even though I had changed the setting in Finder > Preferences. So, I went to the System > Dock Preferences and changed it there too. But now when I click a link in an email, say for a TidBITS article, the link opens in a new window in the browser instead of opening in a browser tab. I guess you can’t have Finder behave one way and other apps in the other?

I assume Safari is your browser. In Safari, go to Preferences->Tabs->Open Pages in Tabs and select ‘Always’.

Actually, using Brave. I can’t find a setting about Tabs in Brave > Preferences…

Jack Clay

I wonder if column view users might prefer tabs while icon or list view folks prefer two windows. I know after OS X came out I completely migrated to column view (always admired NeXT for that) and I find tabs works great for me.

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There are three settings in that Dock prefs menu: Always, Full Screen, and Manually. I’m guessing it was set to Always for you and you changed it to Manually. What if you try Full Screen?

Just tested with your post. Changed Dock Prefs to “Full Screen” leaving Finder Prefs option ‘Open in Tabs’ unchecked. Brave opened the TidBITS link in a tab, which is the behavior I want.

Doesn’t make sense to me as I would assume “Full Screen” meant that the app was displayed in Finder’s “Full Screen” mode, i.e. not a window with other windows behind it. In my case Brave is not set to display in “Full Screen” mode. So why did the link open in a tab? No idea.

I’ll leave the setting as set now and see if other email web links open in tabs in Brave.

Very confusing…

I don’t know why it affects the browser that way, but here is the explanation from Apple Support:

Choose when you want documents to open in a tab (instead of in a new window): always, only when you’re working in full screen, or manually (only when you open a document that way).

Me either. But I’ve learned over the years that when there are multiple options, it always worth seeing what they all do, even when it doesn’t make sense that they’d come into play in the situation in question. Glad it had the effect you wanted, though!

THANK YOU! Once again restoring the MacOS to the original human interface guidelines that worked intuitively and so well for so many years.

You have issues.


Thank you. That has been bugging me for several weeks. I think it came on without my having done anything but no matter. With a 27" screen, I have plenty of space to have two windows at once. I frequently have to copy data from my bank online display to Moneydance. Having only one or the other of the two windows open has be a real pain.

Oh, I also read your article on the dead SSD. You wrote months ago to upgrade new iMacs to the full SSD. I was leaving a mid 2010 27" iMac with a failing hard drive. I had been contemplating a fusion drive but your words drove me to go full 1 TB SSD. The new machine is just so delightful. Boots quickly. I only have the minimal memory but this thing flies.

Alas, I still use El Cap and the Dock preference pane does not have that option :frowning:I hate it when Finder windows open in tabs instead of a new window for much the same reason as you.

I, too, often need a bank transaction display (actually an investment transaction display) open and a Moneydance register open at the same time. I found that the option to expand a window to half screen and then select from the other window for the other half of the screen makes this easy. I have the Moneydance register open on the left half of the screen and my browser window (which may be tabbed) open on the right half.

In Catalina, the option is selectable when you click the green dot on the window border. In Mojave, you needed to click and hold the green dot.

No problems with this in the Finder, but, thankfully, this also killed tabs in Preview which would open in window with compatible doc (like PDF went to a PDF window) which could be anywhere.

Like Adam, I just felt niggled but couldn’t be bothered to do anything about it. That’s one of the delights of TidBITS - little snippets of information that make one’s day go just that little bit smoother. I suppose the essence of my irritation lies in my inate dislike of being automatically opted IN to something. I like to be asked. Apple, please note.